NFL Network “Good Morning Football” host and Arrowhead Pride advocate Peter Schrager turned some heads Monday morning when he made some interesting comments regarding Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Justin Watson.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound fifth-year receiver signed a reserve/futures contract with the club in early February.
"I don't think the @Chiefs passing game suddenly falls apart without Tyreek Hill. And I think there's going to be a WR or two who surprise us all. My sleeper pick for a big season after mini camps is former Bucs WR Justin Watson." -- @PSchrags @ArrowheadPride pic.twitter.com/k8Wbx34Gus— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) June 27, 2022
SCHRAGER: “Out of the University of Pennsylvania, Justin Watson,” said Schrager. “Why are we talking about Justin Watson at 8 a.m.? Because the buzz out of minicamp on Justin Watson is that this guy can make an impact. Now, look — he wore 17 for Tampa. He’s going to be wearing 84 for the Kansas City Chiefs, and I believe he will not only make the team. I think he’s going to play a difference in this thing. You think about what (Patrick) Mahomes can do, and then you put these different types of players. Instead of having one guy in Tyreek Hill, now you have eight different guys that you can throw the ball to, and of course, Travis Kelce at tight end. I don’t think anyone’s going to do what Tyreek Hill did, but I don’t think this team’s going to fall apart without him, and I think the Chiefs — still feeling that loss to the Bengals — have something to prove, and the fact that they are not the hunted right now and they are the hunters, I don’t think that bodes well for anybody, including the Buffalo Bills.”
The play of the day was made by... WR Justin Watson. Seriously. During 11s, Watson ran a corner route against McDuffie, and Patrick Mahomes hit him perfectly in stride in the back right of the end zone.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) May 26, 2022
Following the practice, Mahomes backed up what Watson displayed on the field.
“Watson’s been a pleasant surprise for me; that dude can roll,” Mahomes told reporters. “I remember he came down to Texas, and I threw with him the first day, and I called Veach, and I was like ‘Wait, how fast is this guy?’ because he was running so fast I was late on my throws.”
Back to practice. In one-on-ones, WR Justin Watson popped again, in my look. Just a clean route runner, and he comes with a willingness to play special teams (hello Uncle Dave). CB Dicaprio Bootle stepped in front of a Crum pass to break it up during ones.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) June 2, 2022
Other general standouts for me on Thursday: TE Noah Gray, CB Trent McDuffie, RB Isiah Pacheco, Thornhill, WR Justin Watson and CB Joshua Williams— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) June 9, 2022
Our lead film analyst Ron Kopp reviewed the limited Watson footage available back in late May.
With all the names competing for one or two spots in the receiving corps, any positive comment from the quarterback throwing them the ball should be listened to — and Mahomes’ comments on Watson were more than just throwaway lines or coach speak.
With special-teams impact being very important for the bottom of the depth chart at wide receiver, Watson’s NFL experience there may give him the edge over rookies or other veteran players that aren’t expected to contribute on special teams.
With all that considered, Watson might be the quiet favorite of the group.
As Kopp notes, the possible connection with Mahomes is just the beginning.
One of the keys to making an NFL roster as a fifth or sixth receiver is the ability and willingness to play special teams. Watson played more than 50% of special teams snaps in each season from 2018-20 while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Watson began 2021 on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and only appeared in one regular-season game. His career on offense includes 23 catches for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
The bottom line
Schrager was in Kansas City for Big Slick this past weekend, hanging out with general manager Brett Veach, and I’d imagine some of Veach’s favorite sleeper players came up.
With so much receiver talent entering training camp, my way-too-early prediction sees the Chiefs keeping the locks of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster, second-round rookie Skyy Moore and the two up-for-grabs spots go to Josh Gordon, who gets another chance with a full Kansas City offseason — and finally, Watson.
Remember that so much can change between now and August 30. We’ll see if players like Daurice Fountain, Cornell Powell, Corey Coleman or even Justyn Ross can make their case.